Cameroon is a bilingual country. French and English are both official languages and Cameroon has a dual language education system. Around 20% of the population, primarily in the Northwest and Southwest provinces, is officially Anglophone although there are also around 200 local languages and many people speak neither English nor French fluently.
Cameroon had enjoyed a climate relatively free of external conflict since independence in 1960 and this enabled the development of the infrastructure of the country. However, in a nation with high potential for economic growth, almost a quarter of its 23 million people live below the poverty line. Around 53% of the population is engaged in agriculture and life expectancy remains low at 55.
In addition to this, in 2016 conflict began between lawyers and teachers that degenerated into a situation which looks increasingly like war, with armed groups asking for an independent state. Dozens of villages have been burnt down and an estimated 300,000 people have fled in search of safety. Thousands of children now live a life without books, without classrooms and without any form of formal education.
The literacy rate and the percentage of children enrolled in school are still high for sub-Saharan Africa and education is highly valued. However, over 40% of children are engaged in child labour, restricting their time and energy to study.
In 2000 Cameroon announced universal primary education, but the associated costs make this unaffordable for many families as they are required to buy their children’s textbooks and uniforms.
Why we work in Cameroon
We began working in Cameroon as its active local publishing industry focused mainly on curriculum publishing and did not yet meet the need for reading and supplementary books, particularly in English.
With very little central support for libraries in Cameroon there is a real need for books and reading materials. Many local councils have set up libraries which offer a much-needed space for reading to local communities, and which we have been able to support through book provision.
In more recent years, we have begun supporting the thousands of children are taking shelter from the conflict in Cameroon’s forested areas with their families, living a life without books, without classrooms and without any form of formal education. Others who are in refugee camps in neighbouring villages have limited access to education because active fighting makes it impossible to attend school regularly.
Our work in Cameroon
We work with local NGO Education Information Services International (EISERVI) which supports libraries across a range of sectors. We largely work in the Anglophone Northwest and Southwest provinces of Cameroon, although we do support schools and libraries in the Francophone Littoral Region and Central Region.
In addition, we have sent over 5,000 books to Cameroon which are sent to reach out to conflict-affected communities, providing the books that displaced people living with daily violence need to continue their education and imagine a better tomorrow.
We send many of these books in our Pioneer Book Boxes. These boxes can be moved from place to place as the needs of displaced people change, ensuring that whatever the future holds children will still be able to read, to learn and to escape into a great story.
Supporting council libraries in Cameroon
We supply books to EISERVI’s network of 39 Council Libraries, which operate in a similar way to public libraries in other countries. These libraries offer a broad range of reading materials for readers of all ages.
In addition to providing books for general collections in public libraries in Cameroon our Children’s Corners programme is creating vibrant and welcoming spaces for children in African public libraries, providing brand new books from the UK and purchased locally, grants for library refurbishment and training for librarians in children’s services.
Supporting schools in Cameroon
Through EISERVI we support 43 nursery, primary and secondary schools in Cameroon by providing brand new, carefully selected books for use both in and outside of the classroom. In 2015 we sent over 17,500 books for use in schools in Cameroon.
Supporting higher education in Cameroon
Cameroon has a growing higher education sector but many of these institutions have insufficient budget to buy the specialist books their students need. We support seven higher education institutions and their students by supplying brand new carefully selected academic books. In 2015 we sent over 3,000 such books to institutions in Cameroon.
Supporting displaced children in Cameroon
The 60 Pioneer Book Boxes Book Aid International have sent are filled with books selected to support the education of displaced Cameroonian children as well as a printed manual to support educators, offering advice on reading activities. These boxes have been delivered to centres for people who have fled the violence in country’s Anglophone North West and South West regions.
*UN Human Development Index 2019